Sharing John's Gospel
by Craig Bogley

Appendix C
A Brief Review of Frank Moloney's The Gospel of John
and Its Importance for Catechetical Ministry
Moloney lists the following scholars whose commentaries on John's Gospel have been useful to his work:  Bultmann, Becker, Hoskyns, Dodd, Brown, Schnackenburg, and Barrett.  He frequently calls upon their insights to support his own interpretations.  He not only stands on the shoulders of these scholars, but adds his own unique work, based on his large-scale, narrative-critical reading of the Fourth Gospel.  Moloney's major commentary was published in three volumes, but he also wrote a one-volume work with more pastoral focus: Moloney's commentary focuses on the narrative design of the Gospel story.  Moloney's aim is to trace the way in which the author told the story of Jesus so as to bring readers to the point of decision.  Whatever the sources, he presupposes that the present shape of the Gospel attempts to tell a story that articulates a coherent theology, christology, and ecclesiology.

Moloney identifies the following major blocks of material:  the Prologue, Jesus' public ministry, the final evening with disciples, and the Death and Resurrection.  However, in addition he identifies seven more subtle turning points in the narrative which drive the organization of the commentary.  For these he presents a general introduction to the following sections:

  1.  John 2:1  From Cana to Cana
  2.  John 5:1  Feasts of the Jews
  3.  John 11:1  Jesus turns toward "the hour"
  4.  John 13:1  The Last Discourse
  5.  John 18:1  The Passion
  6.  John 20:1  The Resurrection
  7.  John 21:1  Further Resurrection Appearances
Moloney acknowledges the foundational work of Culpepper's Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel, but indicates that contemporary scholarship is increasingly devoting attention to the impact of the whole story of Jesus as told in John's Gospel on a reader.  For the greater part of the 20th century a massive effort has been made to dissect the Gospel into a variety of literary strata and to trace the community's history.  Moloney states that his objective is to appreciate the narrative of the Gospel as a whole, as a unified, coherent utterance, which is not to be dissected into its constituent parts to be left, in pieces, on the scholar's table.

In the Introduction, Moloney takes some time to explain the interpretive distinctions and implications of the "real author" and the "real reader," but he does not allow narrative-critical jargon to clutter his commentary, where he simply uses the terms "narrator" and "reader."  Moloney concentrates on communicating and interpreting the message that has generated interested readers for almost 2000 years.

Although historical questions that lie behind the text of the Gospel are not ignored, the commentary focuses on the literary features found in the text.  Considerable attention is given to the literary shape of each section of the story so that:

  1. it is clear that each section follows logically from what went on before and leads directly into what follows;
  2. the roles of the characters are evident;
  3. the unresolved puzzles that emerge cause the reader to look farther into the narrative to tie them to other emerging ideas, puzzles, and insights;  and
  4. the consistency of the underlying point of view of the author who shaped and told the life of Jesus in an unparalleled way is illuminated.
Moloney's Gospel of John has proven to be an outstanding catechetical tool with which to structure a new course for use in parish ministries, "Sharing the Gospel of John."  The course promotes an environment conducive not only to the receptivity of ideas, but to the presence of the Holy Spirit invited through the reflective reading of the Gospel in an Ignatian style.  Informality promotes opportunities to share thoughts and stories in response to questions and to receive interpretive catechesis in a non-judgmental atmosphere.  Moloney's Gospel of John has been an ideal source for defining questions and developing incisive responses.  These were based on the illuminating and structured insights afforded by the disciplined application of the narrative-critical analysis of the commentary.  "Sharing the Gospel of John" has the promise of providing a parish level vehicle for developing the perception of the Gospel as a whole and unified utterance, of illuminating the Gospel's coherent theology and christology, and of illustrating how the author's telling of the story of Jesus brings the readers to their own point of decision.  A great debt is owed to Moloney for his inspiring, ground breaking work.

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